La CROSSE — Retiring U.S. Rep. Ron Kind issued a dire warning to Dem activists on Saturday, telling them Trumpism is taking the country “down the dark alley of oppression and tyranny.”

In his final speech to a Dem state convention as a member of Congress, the La Crosse Dem told activists the survival of democracy is on the ballot this fall.

He also ripped into Republican Derrick Van Orden. Kind in 2020 narrowly beat Van Orden, who is running again this fall for western Wisconsin’s 3rd CD.

Van Orden has said he attended the rally that preceded the mob descending on the U.S. Capitol, but wasn’t on the grounds. Critics have pointed to photo evidence that disputes his assertion.

Kind charged the former Navy SEAL had an earpiece in and was directing “other insurrectionists” that day. He added the “only reason the FBI hasn’t knocked on his door and walked him off in handcuffs” is because law enforcement couldn’t find evidence he stepped foot into the U.S. Capitol.

“He was just as much a part of that insurrection as any of the other ones were that day,” Kind said, adding his participation disqualified Van Orden from serving in Congress.

Kind knocked Van Orden over his recent arrest for trying to carry a loaded gun onto a plane and suggested he left the Navy SEALs under questionable circumstances. He didn’t provide any details.

Van Orden’s campaign said Kind was “promoting ludicrous conspiracy theories and lies by mocking a 100 percent service connected disabled veteran with hearing loss he suffers from five combat deployments. Shame on him.”

Kind also urged activists to support state Sen. Brad Pfaff, his former aide and one of four candidates running to replace him.

“He can hold his own in rural America,” Kind said.

After Kind’s speech, state Chair Ben Wikler reminded activists that the party is neutral in primaries, drawing applause from the crowd.

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